“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.”Sharon Ralls Lemon.
It has been said that the mind is like a horse, we should learn how to ride it. Horses are always ready to share an adventure with you, they stand firm and strong always willing to let you lean on them when life gets too rough. Horses are also hypersensitive creatures, they can sense fear, nervousness and they can react to that in unexpected ways. Some horses will test you. Some will teach you. And some will bring out the best in you.
History records the physical and emotional benefits of horseback riding as early as the days of the ancient Greeks. The concept of horses being partnered with humans in a therapeutic capacity was noted in “Natural Exercise” a text written 460-375 BCE by Hippocrates, the Greek physician, and philosopher. Fast forward to today, several studies have confirmed that equine-assisted therapy may help treat autism, PTSD, depression, and pain.
The mind is like a horse, learn how to ride it
It has been said that the mind is like a horse, we should learn how to ride it. The analogy helps us understand how the mind and body work together. The sensations, impulses, and reactions in our bodies are like the untamed instincts of an animal, in this particular analogy our sensations, impulses, and reactions are the horse. When we get on the horse and ride it we learn how to ride this energy.
The horse within us is the animal-like part of our being. Like a horse, we have instincts, lust, and passions that drive us. Those impulses are part of what makes us human we are driven by impulses of self-preservation (i.e., food), self-gratification (i.e., pleasure), and power (i.e., money). Sometimes those impulses can go unchecked and run wild; that is why it is important to have a competent rider to ride on the ‘horse’. The rider within us can direct these passions and animal instincts. The rider can decide which passions to pursue, which to delay pursuing, and which not to pursue at all. The rider within us allows us to discern between worthwhile and less-worthwhile activities.
As the rider of the horse, we can determine what and when we eat, and what career we wish to pursue, we can control our inner passions and desires. We can control our horse-like tendencies. And we should remind ourselves every day that it is we who are in the saddle. Therefore, we can direct ourselves to meaningful activities because we are in control of the reins.
As good equestrians know, the best way to ride a horse is not to try to control it with fear, force, or frustration, but by confidently offering a partnership. We should listen and respond to the horse’s need for reassurance, guidance, and gentleness, as well as recognize its natural animal inclination to follow its instincts and act in a horse-like way. Based on what the horse tells us, we should adjust our journey as needed, not lose sight of our intended destination. In this way, riders and horses can travel in perfect harmony.
This horse analogy helps us better understand how the mind and body work. When we encounter danger our body’s response is to fight, flee or freeze. At this point, our thinking mind comes into the frame to analyze the situation and make a rational decision as to whether the situation really puts us in danger. By noticing what’s going on in our bodies and mind we ride the horse steadily instead of riding it like a horseman or woman in a frenetic and futile battle with a frightened mount. Instead, we relax and settle in our saddle, bumpy though the ride may be, and we take control of the reins. We may talk to ourselves softly just like a horse whisperer would do and find the right words to appease our fear and calm our nerves. We can train our minds to do things differently, and the more practice we get the better at it we become. Life becomes less like a crazy rodeo, and a little more akin to Olympic showjumping; with plenty of hurdles, but a bit more poise.
Riding lessons for your mind
- Saddle up: Mount the horse, stay mounted, and enjoy the ride.
- Listen to the horse. If you want a stable relationship, get a horse. If you are not a humble person, your horse will make you one. If you don’t have your own horse, go and check next door. What do you call a horse who lives next door? Neigh-bor!
- Acknowledge the rider. If the horse tries to buck you off, hold on tight. Chat with your horse and ask him to be nicer to you. Stay in control of the reins. As a peace gesture offer your horse some bread. What kind of bread does a horse eat? Thoroughbred!
- Notice the terrain. Be aware of the terrain, your environment, and of the forecast. If the weather is rainy, stormy,or icy best to postpone the ride. Don’t take a chance, it is not worth it. Be aware of those horses who like traveling around the world. They can be a handful. What do you call a horse that’s a world traveler? A globe-trotter!
- Come back to the center. Check your posture and state of mind. Is your mind present, awake, and attentive? If needed, re-settle by focusing on your breathing, and ask yourself why the horse was feeling so stressed. It was saddled with responsibility!
- Ride into the sunset. Now, ask yourself: Based on what’s here, in this body, mind, and the world around me, what course would be helpful to take right now? In which direction, toward what or whom, shall the onward journey take? Listen to your gut, your heart, your head, and the feedback you receive from the environment and people around you. Recognize that there may be more than one course to take, and remember that you can re-navigate at any time, by checking in again with the rider and horse. Allow yourself to be still, and not make a move, if this is what’s most needed for the moment.
Advice from a horse by Ilan Shamir. Take life’s hurdles in stride. Loosen the reins. Keep stable. Be free-spirited. Gallop to greatness. Keep the burrs from under the saddle. Carry your friends when they need it.
And this my dear friend is your Quest.
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